Brenda knows that House is having trouble.

Usually, she wouldn't care, but he's not trying to get out of clinic, for once, and he hasn't been for the last week. Which is why she knows he's having trouble. And also why she maybe gives a damn. Because, ironically, she misses sniping at him, and him sniping back.

So when he flat out collapses in an exam room, she's the one who braves the storm of angry comments, to get him out of the room.

He sees her, as he sits against the wall, pale and shaky, and turns his head away.

She knows him well enough to know this has to be the worst torture possible for him.

"Come on, House," she says, and although the required detachment is there, her tone isn't completely cold, "need the room for patients, not doctors."

He looks at her, and she sees confusion in his blue eyes.

She isn't concerned, or pitying. But she isn't completely detached either.

He doesn't quite know what he heard in her voice. He can't name it.

She reaches a hand down, but he doesn't take it.

She puts her hands on her hips, and glares, "House, we need the room."

"Just get the stool," he mutters, gesturing at the chair in the opposite corner of the room, "I don't need help."

"No," she says, and leans down, gripping him under the armpits, "you don't. What you need is a shrink."

He actually snorts, at that, and doesn't shove her off as she heaves him to his feet.

She pulls his arm over her shoulders, and helps him out the door of the room.

He really can barely stand, much less walk.

"Why are you doing this?" he asks, as they make their slow way forward.

"Because you were clogging up the exam room."

"Why are you helping me walk?"

"Because you would be clogging up the floor if I didn't."

"Why didn't you just get a wheelchair?"

"Why do you care?"

"Because if Cuddy and my team and random people standing around feel sorry for me, that's one thing. But if someone who hates me feels sorry for me, that's just pathetic."

"I don't feel sorry for you. Although I don't exactly hate you, either."

"You don't hate me?" he asks, and he sounds genuinely surprised, "why the hell not?"

She smiles, a little, and whispers, "arguing turns me on."

He looks at her, out of his element, and it's obvious he's attempting in vain to figure out if she's joking or not.

Finally, she smiles, amused with his struggle, and he snorts.

Although he still doesn't know if she was telling the truth, he does know that she wasn't being very serious, when she said it.

She's gotten him halfway across the clinic floor, because she's intending to get him up to his office so he can crash in his recliner, and his team will at least notice if he dies and call the morgue to pick up his rotting corpse, although he's been such a bastard lately that that's about all they'll do for him, when he collapses again, this time pulling her down along with him.

She shoves his unconscious form off, as several other nurses and a few doctors rush over.

She shakes her head, though, and checks his pulse herself.

It's fast, and faint.

She tells one of the other nurses to get a wheelchair, and starts shaking House.

He groans, quietly, and his eyes flutter open.

"House," she says, quietly, "you collapsed again."

He looks up at her, miserably.

"Fuck off," he manages to say, before he's out again.

Brenda rolls her eyes.

She doesn't quite know why she does it, but she signs both him and herself out, and together with a doctor, lifts House into the wheelchair.

She takes him up to the general ward, and admits him.

Then she starts him on a bag of IV nutrition solution, and leaves.

Later, when she comes back after closing the clinic for the day, to tell House what happened, he is curled on his side, snoring lightly, one arm hanging down off the side of the bed.

She can't help smiling a little.

She honestly does like who he is, although that like is somewhat tempered by what he does, and the fact that she's the one who always has to deal with it, in the end.

Cuddy and Foreman come close, but both of them let him get away with leaving early all the time.

Just like both of them let him push them away.

So she ends up having to clean up after all of them give up.

She takes a cup of water, and splashes it over House's face.

He splutters, coughing, and glares daggers at her, "I was asleep!"

Then he looks around, confused.

"Where the hell am I?"

"You collapsed in the clinic, and I admitted you," she says, rolling her eyes, "I woke you to tell you that."

"Oh."

He reaches up, rubbing his face, "you told me. Why are you still here?"

"Because I have to tell you what happened while you were out."

"Oh. What?"

"I gave you a bag of IV nutrition solution—"

"Dammit."

"And after that was in, you slept for three hours."

"Wow. Fascinating. Would have been more impressive if you'd waited until you could have told me I slept for… say… five hours."

"Yes, but that would have required me to stay late, and I already went out of my way to help you enough to fill my quota for the next six months."

House smirked, tiredly.

He looked… ill.

"So don't run away until you're discharged. It'll annoy me. And you'll get an inexplicably high ratio of STD patients assigned to you in the clinic for the next week."

House groaned, holding up his hands, "okay, okay! I won't leave!"

Brenda grinned evilly, and left.

House lowered his hands, sighing, and curled in on himself, shivering slightly, grumbling, "not that I could get very far anyway, without passing out…"

He felt better than he had this afternoon, but that wasn't saying much.

He closed his eyes, and tried to go back to sleep despite the pain in his leg.

The next morning, Brenda came by with another bag of IV solution, and hung it while House was still asleep.

He woke as she took his arm, wiping an alcohol swab over the inside of his elbow.

"That's cold!"

"Oh, shut up, you big baby," she snapped, having gotten an inexplicably bad night's sleep.

He sighed, and watched her prepare the needle, and insert it into a vein in his arm.

"You know, I /can/ eat now," he grumbled, as she opened the tubing, "I'm not unconscious."

"That explains the whining," she said, then, with an evil smile, continued, "I just like giving you pain."

He snorted, as she walked out.

She came back a while later, to remove the empty IV.

House sighed, watching her.

"Could you at least put a helplock in?"

She looked at him.

Then sighed, slightly.

"Relax, House. Your bloodwork showed you were still dehydrated, I wanted to make sure you were stabilized."

He nodded.

"You'll get lunch in a more appetizing form," she said, then paused, "well, marginally more appetizing…"

House snorted, "no kidding."

She smirked at him, and left.

Another nurse brought lunch, and he snapped at her.

She left, glaring, and leaving the lunch tray out of his reach.

He sighed, and climbed off the bed to get it.

His bad leg gave out as he tried to take a step—his cane wasn't in the room—and he fell.

At one point, someone found him there when they checked on him, and tried to help him up, but he snarled at them until they went away.

This was so damned pathetic….

It was a little after six, when the door slid open again, rattling the shades giving him some sort of privacy.

House was curled on the floor, shivering, and in pain.

White and green sneakers approached, and then scrub-covered knees were in his field of vision.

He closed his eyes, biting his cheek to keep himself from yelling at the person. He needed to get off the floor.

"House. Come on, get up."

He opened his eyes, and looked up at who it was.

Brenda.

"Get the hell away from me!" he yelled. Seeing him pass out. Helping him walk. Those were bad enough. But he couldn't stand her seeing him stuck on the floor like this because he was so damned weak…

She didn't seem to care about his yelling, just gripped his arm, and pulled it over her shoulders, putting her own arm around his back.

He kept snarling at her, even as she heaved him to his feet, and helped him back into the bed.

He didn't even know what he was saying.

He just wanted to hurt her, to make her feel as bad as he did.

He was an injured animal, and he was biting anyone who came near him.

She checked the contents of his lunch tray.

Then sighed, confirming that none of it would be non-nauseating lukewarm, and pushed it on the bed table over to a corner.

House had finally stopped yelling, and had curled up, eyes shut, arms wrapped around his abdomen, almost protectively, still shivering.

"House," she said, quietly, "I'm gonna get you some food. And you're going to not yell at me when I come back with it. Okay? You're just gonna eat it. Or I'm putting you back on IV nutrition."

He nodded, grudgingly, not opening his eyes.

"Good."

He heard her footsteps retreat, and sighed.

The only thing worse than Evil Nurse Brenda taking care of him would be her pitying him.

Her opinion of him shouldn't matter, but…

If someone he verbally abused and fought with almost daily pitied him, that would be the most pathetic thing he could imagine.

Eventually, she came back, carrying a tray of food.

He blinked.

"That's not from the cafeteria," he said.

She smirked, "no, it isn't. It's from the café across the street. I'm hungry too."

House snorted, and took the cylindrical, paper-wrapped object she handed him.

She sat on the edge of the bed, since there were no chairs in the room.

"Why are you here?" he asked.

"Because nobody else is."

He stopped, halfway through pulling the paper off his turkey wrap, and tried to think of a way to express his anger at being pitied that would not end with a needle in his arm.

She smirked at him, though, and he blinked.

"I mean," she said, although she had obviously meant to say what she had said earlier, exactly the way she had said it, just to rile him up, "that I'm here because you /are/ this hospital's best doctor, and even though you're a huge pain in the ass, it would suck if you died. And since nobody else can stand you long enough to help you, that left me."

He sighed.

It was logical. She didn't pity him. He could deal with it.

He nodded.

"Good," she said, "now eat your turkey wrap before I force-feed it to you."

He finished unwrapping it, and took a bite.

They ate in silence, except for the occasional match of barb throwing, and insult lobbing.

Eventually, Brenda crunched up the wrappers from her sandwich and chips, and got off the bed to throw them away.

She took House's, throwing them away, and put the tray under her arm, waving goodbye briefly as she walked out the door.

He watched her go, and felt a strange unhappy feeling in his chest as she left.

Breakfast came by way of another nurse, and a note with a threat about giving him a tone-deaf roommate with atypical singing seizures if he didn't eat it.

"Brenda," said Cuddy, frowning down at a notice as she came out of her office.

"Yes?" asked Brenda, looking up from filling out a clinic chart.

"I just got a notice saying House was admitted."

"Yeah. He collapsed twice in a row. I admitted him."

Cuddy stared at her.

"Why?"

"Because," said Brenda, somewhat coldly, "he's sick."

"He's not sick, he just wasn't eating, by what the admittance notice says…"

"Look," said Brenda, irritated, "I know you hate him, now. I hate him too. But he /is/ a good doctor, and he did keep collapsing in my clinic. I appreciate that he's useful for his medical expertise, and I don't want unconscious people lying around getting in the way, so I admitted him."

Cuddy sighed, shaking her head, "as logical as that sounds… it's just time to give up. I'm going to discharge him after lunch, and get him a cab ride home. It's just not worth the fight."

She left.

Brenda looked after her, pencil pressing down so hard into the paper the tip snapped.

She sighed, taking a deep breath.

What the hell was wrong with her?

She didn't care about House, in any non-professional way.

The clinic was too busy to get away from before lunch, but she did send someone up with House's cane, which she had been holding hostage against his escape.

Cuddy thought it was a fight, to bribe, blackmail, and threaten House into not dying.

Brenda wondered if she herself was the weird one, for actually enjoying House's antics.

Later, she happened to look up from signing a chart, just in time to see House limping unsteadily across the lobby.

Even with five decent meals in him, he still looked worn out.

Brenda closed her eyes.

Why the hell did she care?

She put down her pen, grabbed the sign-out sheet, and scribbled her name on it, and the time.

Then she followed after House reaching him just in time to grip his arm as he stumbled over the threshold of the outer doors.

He glared at her.

"It wasn't my idea to discharge you. It was Dr. Cuddy, and I'm sorry I couldn't get away from the clinic."

He snorted, "You got away now."

"I just left a full waiting room with only one doctor working there. I'm gonna get hell for this from Cuddy, later."

House snorted again, and pulled his arm out of her grasp.

"Fuck off," he growled, and continued out to the cab that was waiting for him.

He was almost inside it, when a hand gripped his, firmly, and yanked him back onto the sidewalk.

"Ow!" he said, loudly, as his bad leg gave way.

She caught his arm, and kept him from falling.

"You idiot!" she said, loudly, in his face, "pushing people away, being depressed, and not taking care of yourself is one thing. But going home with the intention of curling up to die is something else!"

He stared at her.

How the hell could she know…?

She pushed him into the cab, and got in after him.

He continued to stare at her.

"Why the hell do you care?"

"Because I'm a human being. And because I'd miss you."

He swallowed.

"What?"

"You pushed everyone away because you were giving up, and you didn't want them to get hurt. Because you were tired of hurting, but you didn't want to hurt everyone else when you stopped your own pain. But you missed one, House. You thought that nobody who didn't show they cared would possibly miss you. But you're stupid about people. You never considered that there could be someone who's enough like you to not understand their own feelings. You're an idiot!"

"You hate me."

"I already told you, I don't hate you. I don't even dislike you, or feel neutrally about you. I like you. I like you being a bastard. I like you being an asshole. I like arguing with you, I like blackmailing you to work clinic. I like *you*."

He stared at her.

Then replied with a very eloquent, "huh?"

She leaned in close, and kissed him.

He grunted.

She pulled back and looked at him, breathing heavily.

"So you can't kill yourself yet, okay? You gotta push me away, first."

House swallowed.

"I… uh… um…"

She smiled, "or… you could /not/ push me away, /not/ kill yourself, and go on a date or two. See what happens."

The cab pulled up in front of House's apartment.

Brenda grinned.

"Think it over."

House got out, quickly, and paid the cab driver.

Then limped up the steps to his apartment as fast as his bad leg would carry him.

Brenda sighed, slumping against the seat.

The cabbie looked over the seat at her, eyebrows raised, "aren't you going to follow him in there?"

She shook her head, smiling slightly.

"He wouldn't ever let himself get attached to someone. But he needed to think someone would still care if he died. I don't even like him, and I know he isn't the least bit interested in me, but…" she shrugged, "someone had to stop him from going through with it."

The cab driver blinked.

"You are a sneaky lady," he said.

Evil Nurse Brenda smiled.

Inside his apartment, House leaned against a wall, breathing heavily.

What the hell?

That had not been Brenda in the back of that cab.

There was just no way it had been her.

Unless…

Unless it had been an act.

Unless she had just been trying to keep him from killing himself.

Hs snorted, and limped towards the counter, where he had put his bottle of morphine the morning before he went to work and collapsed.

Wait.

She had tried to keep him from killing himself.

Which meant she didn't want him to kill himself.

Which meant she cared if he died.

'Great,' he thought, and knew he was lying to himself, just making an excuse, 'now I can't do it.'

That night, as he sat on his bed, absently rubbing his bad leg, he realized that there was no way she had thought he would buy that act, not after he had time to think about it.

Which meant she knew he would realize that the fact that she had put it on meant she cared enough to bother.

She had known that just the slightest hint of someone caring whether he lived or died would be enough.

And she had given him that hint.

A small smile formed on his face.

He laughed, quietly.

She was just as twisted and manipulative as he was.

Then he tilted his head.

And an even bigger grin formed on his face.

He chuckled, and pulled the covers up, intending to actually get a good night's sleep.

The next morning, he ate a decent breakfast.

He got on his bike, because his car was still at the hospital, and drove to work.

Brenda smirked, as she saw House limp through the front doors.

Then she blinked, as she noticed he had come in on time.

Later, he showed up for clinic duty. When he was supposed to.

She blinked, as he leaned over the counter.

"So," he said, as she handed him a file, "what about that date?"

She choked.

He raised an eyebrow.

She swallowed, and tried to get a hold on her expression.

She finally got herself under control, and looked down at the stack of charts in front of her.

Well… she certainly couldn't let him win.

She looked up, smirking.

"Pick me up at my apartment at eight. Tomorrow night, I've got to work late today."

He blinked. Then grinned, enjoying the game, and limped off into exam room two.

The next morning, House limped into the differential room, holding a file.

The kids and Foreman all looked up, as he limped over to the whiteboard, and picked up one of the dusty markers.

They looked at each other, as he started writing.

Then back at him and the board, as he turned around.

"Differential diagnosis," he said, cheerily, "for all that."

They looked at the board.

Diminishment of assholish behavior

Rejection of suicidal thoughts and plans

Inability to verbally apologize for last six months but feeling regret all the same

Bringing breakfast in hopes that patient's team will participate in a case with him despite above symptom

While they had been reading at the board, House had put a large takeout bag on the table, and retreated to his office.

They opened it, and unloaded the boxes of breakfast food.

Then looked up at House, who was now standing on the balcony, looking firmly away from the office.

They looked at each other.

Then nodded, cautiously.

Foreman got up, and walked over, "are you gonna participate in the differential?" he asked, of House, "or just stand outside all day."

House turned around, and followed Foreman back into the differential room.

Kutner was already writing the symptoms on the board.

Cuddy sighed, bracing herself for the empty office she knew would be there as she walked by the…

She blinked.

House was in there.

Sitting at the table.

Taub was talking.

House interrupted him, and gestured.

Foreman shook his head.

House said something else.

Foreman sighed, and nodded.

Thirteen, Taub and Kutner got up, and filed out past her.

House turned to look at Foreman, who glared at him, but looked only mildly irritated.

"What did you do?"

Brenda looked up, eyebrows raised.

"What are you talking about?"

"I just saw House running a differential. Without his team looking like they wanted to punch him. He's at work. Working."

"I asked him out."

Cuddy's jaw dropped, "what?!"

Brenda turned back to the file she had been working on, hiding a small smirk.

Brenda hadn't actually told House where her apartment was, but she doubted that would be much of an obstacle to him.

At eight that night, she heard a car pull up in front of her apartment, and a loud, hard knocking sound on her door.

She opened it, "don't knock with your cane. It'll dent the wo…"

He was wearing a /tie/. He looked… like he was actually going on a date.

He grinned.

She smirked.

Okay, so he was taking their little competition more seriously than she thought.

She could go with that.

"Wait a minute," she said, smiling, "I think I underdressed."

He blinked, but shrugged, and leaned against the wall.

When she came back out of her bedroom, she was wearing a long red dress, and her hair was down out of its perpetual bun.

She smiled, as House gaped for a moment. She hated to admit it, but the way he was looking at her was… kind of flattering.

House yawned, wondering how long she was going to take.

Then, the door opened, and Evil Nurse Brenda came out.

Except it wasn't Evil Nurse Brenda.

It was…

Fuck. He had never thought about her as… well, a woman. She was a sparring partner, and sometimes a pain in the ass, that was all. But… she was actually pretty damn hot.

She smiled, and he could swear he detected a slight blush in her cheeks.

He fake offered her his arm, and she fake took it.

They fake walked to his car, and he fake opened the door for her.

He got in, and drove to the restaurant. It was quite fancy, and Brenda was slightly surprised that he had managed to get reservations on such short notice.

"How'd you get reservations?" she asked, as the hostess placed the menus on the table.

House smirked, "saved the manager's life. Or at least, one of his kidneys. Was still apparently worth a last minute reservation."

She blinked at him.

"You used a favor for a fake date?"

House shrugged, "well, it's not like I'm ever gonna use it for a real date…"

She shrugged, and opened the menu.

He followed suit.

She ordered wine, he ordered scotch.

She raised an eyebrow, "is that wise? With your pills, I mean."

He looked at the copper-colored liquid.

Then shrugged, "it's good enough to be worth the risk."

She snorted, doubtfully, "I suppose I'm being the designated driver, then?"

He blinked at her.

Then looked at his glass.

Why the hell did he care? It was just a fake date, it didn't matter if he annoyed her.

But, he supposed, being considerate was part of the act.

He sighed, pronouncing, "you're no fun."

She laughed.

He put the glass down, and called the waiter back over, asking him to bring an iced tea instead.

She ordered muscles and linguini.

He ordered steak.

The perfect act of the perfect couple. Stereotypes all around.

He was getting slightly uncomfortable, though, with the silence.

So he leaned forward a bit, and looked directly at her face, "why'd you become a nurse?"

She looked at him, and was startled to find those blue, blue eyes looking at her with an act of interest.

She swallowed, "my sister had leukemia. At first I wanted to be a doctor, so I could cure it. But… there was this nurse, who was assigned to my sister's floor. I thought she was the strongest, coolest person I had ever met. She was a woman, and she was just a nurse, not a doctor… but all the doctors really respected her, even the department heads. Not because of some title she had, or some school she had gone to. But 'cause she was really, really good at what she did."

Brenda looked at House, and found the act to have been dropped.

He looked like he had actually found her answer sincerely interesting.

"So…" she said, feeling slightly annoyed, "why did you become a doctor?"

House titled his head a little.

"My dad was stationed in Japan… my friend got hurt, we went in the wrong entrance of the hospital, ran into a janitor. My friend came down with an infection. None of the doctors knew what to do. So they called in the guy I had thought was a janitor. He was one of the buraku, Japan's untouchables, as well as a doctor. He didn't dress well, didn't pretend to be one of them. But… they respected him when they needed him. Because he was so good at his job."

They sat in silence for a while, unable to think of anything to say.

"Your sister…"

"She died when I was fifteen."

"Oh."

"Do you have any siblings?"

"No."

A pause.

"Why do I feel uncomfortable on a fake date?" asked House, eventually.

"Because it stopped being fake the moment you put on a tie."

"…good point."

Another pause.

"But let's pretend it still is."

House nodded, "good idea."

An hour later, House pulled up in front of Brenda's apartment.

He got out of the car, and walked her to her door.

She looked at him, smiling slightly.

"There will be a next time," she said, voicing his thoughts, "but not somewhere all formal."

He nodded, vehemently, in agreement, smirking.

She stepped closer to him.

"I still expect you to show up for clinic tomorrow."

"I know," he said, "or else you'll tie me down and stick me with needles."

She grinned, evilly.

"I almost hope you don't show up," she said, "so I /can/ tie you down."

House smirked, "you can tonight, and I won't fight."

She snorted, "not on the first date, House."

He grinned, "that indicates a yes for some other time."

She smiled.

"We'll see where this goes."

He nodded, as she unlocked her door, and made to step inside.

Then put his hand on her shoulder.

She turned around.

He leaned down, and they kissed.

She smiled, as they pulled apart.

"Goodnight, House. I'll see you tomorrow."

He nodded, and limped back to his car.

He sat at the wheel, as his body and mind slowly calmed.

Eventually he pulled away from the curb, still smiling to himself.

He hadn't felt like this in fifteen years.

Since he had gotten paint all over his facemask in a game of doctors versus lawyers paintball, and tripped over a barrier, knocking his head hard against the floor, waking up later with a lady leaning over him, trying to keep from laughing.

He smiled, as he pulled up in front of his apartment.

And didn't think of killing himself again.

It was amazing, what a distraction love could be.

Brenda smiled, as she saw house limp into the clinic.

It was increasingly easy to get him to enter it, and increasingly difficult to get him to actually go into an exam room, instead of just leaning on the counter of the nurses' station and talking to her.

So she laid down a rule: hospital, enemies; everywhere else, whatever else they wanted.

House seemed to enjoy their battle of wits as much as he enjoyed flirting with her.

Though the rest of the hospital staff found it more interesting when he was flirting. Because it was house. Flirting. With Brenda.

They ate lunch together a few times, and house whined when it was time to go back inside.

She had never thought a grown man whining could be so funny—and gratifying. He wanted to spend time with her.

Brenda jumped, as she picked up her backpack after turning off the lights, and saw a figure standing in the shadows.

"sorry, the clinic's closed…"

The figure stepped—limped—forward out of the shadow, into the cool silver lines of illumination coming through the blinds over the windows.

She sighed, shaking her head.

"would it kill you to just say hello?"

He chuckled, as he limped over to join her on her way out.

"you're cute when you're scared."

She rolled her eyes, "I was not scared, house."

"liar."

She glared at him, but he just smirked.

She shook her head, and, glancing into cuddy's office to make sure she had already left, ran the few steps to the front door, and locked it behind herself.

House stopped, blinking.

Then he smirked, and leaned on bar across the door, watching her.

She leaned on the one on the other side, smirking.

Then she walked away, out the outer doors.

He watched her go, unable to stop a smile from forming on his face.

He should be annoyed.

Now he had to walk all the way around to the ER.

But he didn't mind. His leg hadn't been too bad, lately. Which she knew before she locked the doors on him.

And it was fun, that she gave as good as she got.

He walked to the ER, and was partway through it, when he heard Cameron call his name.

He turned around, looking at her, as she walked over, pulling a pair of slightly bloody gloves off her hands.

"*you're* in the ER?"

He shrugged, "Brenda locked the front door."

Cameron smiled.

"and you're happy."

He looked at her.

"why are you even talking to me?"

"because I think it's nice."

"a month ago you hated me. Why the hell are you talking to me now?"

She shrugged, smiling, and went back to her patient.

House shook his head, and limped out the doors of the ER.

Brenda was already there, leaning against the wall.

He smirked at her.

She smirked back, and kissed him.

"I'll get you for that," he murmured, and she smiled.

"I'm counting on it."

They walked around to the front, and got in her car, which he loved for the fact that it had a working fan—and he would probably love even more as the days got colder.

He hadn't ever owned a car with air conditioning or heat….

They drove to a pub, and he had a Rueben and she had a huge hamburger.

She ate his pickle, and he watched as she made that the most seductive thing it could possibly be while not being just a euphemism.

"you are evil," he said.

She laughed.

"and you're a horn-dog."

"all men are horn-dogs."

"true. Maybe I should go out with that woman on your team…. Hadley."

House snorted, "you'd have to fight foreman for her."

She raised her eyebrows, "really? I thought he was gay."

House laughed.

"well maybe they're having a threesome with another guy."

She snorted.

They finished, and he paid, but only because she paid last time, and got up.

He tripped on the leg of the table, and fell.

Brenda waited a few moments, because if he was fine and could get up, he would be cranky that she assumed he was hurt.

Someone asked for a doctor, Brenda snapped at them that she was a nurse, and knelt, mostly to keep anyone with no medical training and no idea of how to deal with house from helping.

House rolled onto his back.

He looked like he was in pain, but smiled at her and gave her a thumbs up, and she knew the fall had just jarred his bad leg—he wasn't hurt.

He took some pills—she didn't pay attention to how many—and waited.

Someone politely asked if they needed help.

House snapped rudely at them, and they left.

Eventually the vicodin seemed to kick in, and he got to his feet.

She handed him his cane, and they left.

He still seemed to be in more pain than usual, but she didn't even try to grip his arm, or help him in any way.

First… she had no interest in helping hurt puppies.

Second… he had no interest in being helped.

He seemed to appreciate the space she was giving him.

They were on their way to the movie they had tickets to, when he reached over, and gripped her arm.

She glanced at him, startled, and pulled over as she realized there was a problem.

He opened his door as soon as they were stopped, and lifted his bad leg out with both hands, stretching it out in front of himself, and letting out a long sigh.

"sorry," he said, quietly.

"I'm rolling my eyes," she said, because he couldn't see her doing it.

He laughed, quietly.

She got out of the car, and walked around to his side.

She considered telling him she didn't want to see the movie that badly anyhow, but it wasn't true, and he wouldn't buy it if she tried to lie about that.

She wasn't entirely sure how to deal with this.

He was sweaty, now.

"I need tampons."

He looked up at her, rather confused by why she had said that.

She pointed at the CVS across the parking lot she had pulled into.

His expression cleared, and he nodded.

She left.

She amused herself for a while, talking with the pharmacist.

Her phone buzzed, and she took it out and looked at it.

'thx,' was all it read.

She smiled, bought her tampons, and walked back across the parking lot.

He was still sitting sideways in the seat, but he looked a lot better now.

She leaned on the side of the car.

"movie. Yes or no."

He looked at her.

"I… might fall asleep. But yes."

She looked at him.

He looked away.

"you wanted to be able to sit through the movie, and you were hurting."

She pushed off the car, and stood in front of him.

He looked at her.

"did you honestly think I didn't think about this before I started going out with you? do you think I'm going to try and change you? I want to be with Gregory house, not someone else."

"nobody wants their boyfriend to be a drug addict."

"you're not a drug addict," she said, rolling her eyes, "your body is addicted to the drugs."

"that's the definition of a drug addict."

"no, it's not. Your body is chemically dependant. *You* are in pain. Maybe you take the drugs for pain that isn't physical, sometimes. Maybe the pain you're feeling isn't a result of something physical, sometimes. But you have an injury that gives you chronic, unrelenting, physical pain. And that's why you take the pills *most* of the time. Anyone who tried to deal with the sometimes by taking away your pills… would be a moron. You are going to get high. You are going to have a shorter lifespan, if you keep taking something with acetaminophen in it. But you will actually be able to live the life you have."

He looked down for a long time, at his fancy sneakers, the asphalt, and her green and white sneakers.

He edged his left foot forward, so the toes of their shoes were touching.

She slid her hand around his neck.

He put his arm around he waist.

She kissed him.

He opened his mouth.

She slid her leg between his knees.

They made it to the theater in time for the movie, and they sat in the front row.

House tried to watch the movie.

He honestly did.

But the vicodin was really starting to kick in, and he was tired to begin with.

Brenda sighed a bit, as house's head drooped to rest on her shoulder.

She pushed the armrest up, and he slid down, so he was half resting in her lap, sleeping peacefully.

She rested her hand on his back, and watched the movie.

He slept through the rest of the movie, and she continued to sit through the credits, as people filed out of the theater.

He stirred, as someone bumped his good leg, but didn't wake.

The theater was empty.

He slept.

People came in, and started cleaning out the seats.

She gently shook his shoulder, and he lifted his head off her hip, looking around.

Then he sat up, and looked at her with an expression of sincere apology.

She shook her head, and they left the theater.

He was struggling to stay awake in the car, and fell asleep, as they pulled up in front of his apartment.

She found this amusing.

He stirred, when she shook his shoulder, and looked at her.

Then he smiled, and she blinked.

He nodded his head towards the apartment, "come in with me. I'll make up for falling asleep."

She rolled her eyes, but then realized that hadn't been a euphemism.

She shrugged, and got out, and watched him slowly assend the stairs.

"why do you live in a place with steps out front?"

"because I've lived here since before my leg and don't feel like moving."

She shrugged, and followed him into the apartment itself.

It was… nice.

Messy, but with a lot of character and sort of low-key beauty.

… like the man who owned it.

He hung his cane on the doorway into the kitchen, and she followed him into it, where he dug through the freezer, eventually emerging with a carton of ice cream.